No doubt about it, a star is born. Recently, during a Congressional hearing, Representative Alexandra Ocasio-Cortez “played a game,” with leaders of agencies that serve as government watchdogs. Common Cause was among them. The topic was about elected officials and the number of improper activities they can perform without suffering consequences. She asked the questions and the participants made “yes” or “no” replies. Once the entertainment was over, Ocasio-Cortez sat back, looking satisfied. She had proven to her audience there is little oversight for outrageous conduct among her peers.
After the tape aired, people on my Facebook page heaped Ocasio-Cortez with praise: “courageous,” “sharp,” ‘uncompromising.” Anyone who suspected the government of wrong-doing probably saw the clip as “refreshing,” too.
But was the exercise enlightening? After two years at “Trump University,” was anyone, besides those awaiting The Rapture, surprised by the answers they heard? Had all memory been erased from the public’s mind about the scandals that occurred in the Richard Nixon and Ronald Raegan years? Frankly, I consider Trump’s current term as merely a refresher course. Yes, corruption exists in our government. And, yes, oversight is appalling. Our history is replete with lessons.
Such facts led me to wonder if the Congresswoman had any solutions to offer? I’d heard none during the charade. What I sensed, instead, was an invitation for citizens to feel hopeless. Our government was full of bad actors against whom working men and women had no defense.
I wondered if Al Franken would agree.
Ocasio-Cortez’s theater is guilty of the sin of omission. “We the People” have every reason to hope. The power of impeachment in The U. S. Constitution gives Congress almost limitless authority to police unethical and illegal conduct and to remove government officials who have betrayed their office. All that’s required is a guilty verdict for acts of “treason, bribery, or other high crimes and misdemeanors.” The absence of further definition is no impediment. Rather, it allows each Congress to decide what the words mean. In the cases of Richard Nixon and Bill Clinton, some might see a wide disparity.
Nonetheless, no one should believe our leaders lack sufficient means to police its own. Our Constitution is a greater authority than a ticky-tacky list of “does and don’ts.” What may be lacking is the will to employ it. I don’t know. But the power exists.
What Congresswoman Ocasio-Cortez did, on the day of the public hearing, was to establish her credentials as a game player. But can she do more? Can she reach across the aisle to build coalitions large enough to pass laws?